Perennial pleasures Garden: A plant grower previews next year's introductions, and it looks as if 1999 will show a lot of style.


Next year's most fashionable gardens will be a kaleidoscope - a nonstop show of color, texture, foliage, height and blossoms to surprise and delight throughout the spring, summer and fall.

There will be compact plants for small gardens, ornamental grasses for showy display, and plants that attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Examples of these and dozens of new variations on old favorites were recently presented at a Perennial Plant Fashion Show and open house put on by Bluemount Nurseries, a wholesale grower in Monkton.

The invitation-only event - pegged as the first plant-fashion show ever - offered a preview of some new and unusual plants that will be available for gardens next spring.

Stylish nursery employees attired in the latest gardening apparel and accessories pushed wheelbarrows and pulled garden carts brimming with the Bluemount floral selections up a runway and onto a stage for display.

"Perennials are ever-changing, much like the seasons here in Maryland," said Martha Simon Pindale, president of Bluemount Nurseries. "They have many different aspects of beauty."

Some perennials start the season with interesting foliage and later burst forth with gorgeous buds and beautiful flowers. Others are such rapid growers that they mature from a small potted plant into a full, bushy specimen by the end of just one season.

"People in Maryland should look with excitement at fall bloomers," said Pindale. "We have such beautiful, long falls here. There's no reason to throw in the trowel after Labor Day."

Eager gardeners who wish to get an early start on next year's garden should be able to find most of the plants mentioned here at some of the larger garden centers in the Baltimore metropolitan area, Pindale said. Bluemount does not sell directly to consumers.

"Fall is a great time for planting," said George Mayo, sales manager at Bluemount. Most perennials can be planted in the fall, when the warm soil encourages root development and cooler daytime temperatures create a less stressful growing environment.

Although many perennials are hardy, most require good soil, watering during dry spells and regular weeding during the first year. Dividing is needed every five to seven years when the plants begin to decline.

"Perennials are not low-maintenance," Pindale said. "After two or three years, when there are big sweeps of established plants and they are out-competing the weeds, maintenance will drop. But a garden is a labor of love, and there definitely is labor."

Among the new possibilities for the 1999 garden, Bluemount suggests:

* A dwarf aster that's perfect for today's smaller garden. It's low-growing, needs no pruning or staking and looks great all season long. For companion plants, try: Aster 'Yellow Stokes' and Chrysanthemum 'Pink Daisy.'

* A longer-blooming and more orange-colored rudbeckia (coneflower). Companion plant: variegated Miscanthus ornamental grass.

* An exotic yellow salvia with huge leaves that's easy to grow. Companion plant: snakeroot.

* An Oenothera (evening primrose) that has more interesting silver leaves and bigger, more prolific flowers than the variety from grandmother's garden. Companion plants: pink onion, Aster 'Alert.'

* A tall aster with striking plum purple leaves that explodes in August with thousands of tiny white daisies with raspberry centers. Companion plant: stonecrop (sedum).

* A wonderful, fall-blooming, native coral bells with showy white bottlebrush wands above fuzzy, lime-green foliage. Companion plant: broad-leafed sedge.

* A dwarf bee balm that is very resistant to mildew and doesn't spread as fast as the full-sized bee balm. Companion plant: Mexican hyssop.

* A dwarf ironweed with masses of small purple flowers in early August that attract Monarch butterflies. Companion plant: goldenrod.

* Two carefree grasses, including a native blue and a red switch grass. With the native blue, try a companion plant such as plumbago. For the red switch grass, try Echinacea 'White Swan.'

* Two ground covers that thrive in the shade: A purple-leaf clover and an evergreen called wood spurge that is particularly useful under trees. For the clover try a companion plant such as calamint 'White Cloud,' and for the evergreen, a companion plant such as Lamium 'Red Nancy.'

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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